What the Checkers’ offense lacked in consistency after losing several key players, it made up for with timeliness.
A.J. Jenks tied the game with 2:28 remaining in regulation and Chris Terry scored the overtime winner in a 4-3 victory over Oklahoma City on Saturday night. The win, the Checkers’ season-high fourth in a row, came despite the team taking a season-low 19 shots on goal.
Riley Nash and Brett Sutter also scored for the Checkers, who were playing without 11 players that were available to them on the season’s opening night. Five of those missed the game due to injury, while another six – Drayson Bowman, Zach Boychuk, Tim Wallace, Jeremy Welsh, Bobby Sanguinetti and Dan Ellis – were on route to Carolina for the Hurricanes’ upcoming training camp.
To make up for the loss of those players, a group of those who stayed behind, namely Sutter, Terry, Zac Dalpe (two assists) and Justin Peters (32) saves made contributions, as did a group of players who arrived from the ECHL as reinforcements earlier in the day.
Of the five players who made their season debut with the Checkers on Saturday, defenseman Beau Schmitz was the only one to get on the score sheet, earning his first professional point with an assist on Nash’s goal. Jenks, who started the season with the Checkers but spent the last month with the ECHL’s Florida Everblades, had come up just two days earlier, while David Rutherford, who arrived Friday, chipped in his first pro point by assisting on Jenks’ goal.
With the win, the Checkers completed a back-to-back sweep of the Barons, who they defeated by a 7-0 score on Friday. The season series is now tied at two games apiece, with the road team winning all four games.
Though the Checkers entered the third trailing by just one goal, an equalizer seemed perhaps unlikely in a period that saw the visitors out-shot by a 12-4 margin. However, Jenks was able to find a loose puck in traffic and immediately fire it past goalie Yann Danis for his first AHL goal in nine games this season.
During an overtime power play that came after Dalpe had drawn a holding penalty just 18 seconds in, Terry extended his point streak to six games (3g, 6a) with a one-time blast from the right point. The goal was his fifth game-winner of the season, tying him with Boychuk for the team lead.
The goal was the Checkers’ second power-play goal of the game, giving them two consecutive games with multiple power-play goals. Prior to facing the AHL’s 30th-ranked penalty kill for two games this weekend, they had not recorded more than one power play goal in a single game since Oct. 28.
Despite drawing first blood via Nash’s goal just four minutes into the first period, the Checkers had previously fallen into a 3-1 hole as the Barons scored three times in the first 10 minutes of the second period. However, Sutter provided an important response, crashing the net and knocking home a loose puck Danis thought he had covered only 32 seconds after Toni Rajala had scored the Barons’ third goal.
The Checkers now hop aboard a seven-hour bus to Houston to continue a three-games-in-three-nights set. They are in position to win all three games for the third time in team history and third time this season.
NOTES: In addition to Schmitz, Matt Beca, Matthew Pistilli and Leigh Salters made their season debuts for Charlotte, with John Muse dressing as backup goalie for the first time … Oklahoma City’s first goal ended a 144-minute shutout streak for Peters … The Checkers were one shot away from tying a franchise record for fewest in a single game … Forwards Nicolas Blanchard, Jerome Samson and Justin Soryal and defensemen Marc-Andre Gragnani and Rasmus Rissanen all missed the game due to injury.